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John Haines arrived in Alaska, fresh out of the Navy, in 1947 and established a homestead seventy miles southeast of Fairbanks. He stayed there nearly twenty-five years, learning to live off the country: hunting, trapping, fishing, gathering berries, and growing vegetables. Those years formed him as a writer, and the interior of Alaska and its boreal forest influenced his poetry and prose and helped him find his unique voice.
Placing John Haines, the first booklength study of his work, tells the story of those years, but also of his later, itinerant life, as his success as a writer led him to hold fellowships and teach at universities across the country.
James Perrin Warren draws out the contradictions inherent in that biography—that this poet so indelibly associated with place and authentic belonging, spent decades in motion—and also sets Haines’s work in
the context of contemporaries like Robert Bly, Donald Hall, and his close friend Wendell Berry. The resulting portrait shows us a poet who was regularly reinventing himself, and thereby generating creative tension that fueled his unforgettable work. A major study of a
sadly neglected master, Placing John Haines puts his achievement in compelling context.
Warren weaves biography with analysis . . . [and] makes a compelling case that Haines should be more widely read. Recommended.
James Perrin Warren is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University and the author of several books on nineteenth-century American literature.